Mental Health and Recreation

There are several things that I’m really thankful to my parents for, aside from giving birth to me of course…  The fact that we never got a TV until I was about 12 is one of them. Whilst at the time, I wasn’t always thrilled about this fact, in retrospect I am grateful… for a number of reasons. Firstly, it forced us to read books for enjoyment and ‘grow a brain’ (literally), secondly it got us recreating outdoors and thirdly, it prevented us from becoming wallflowers who expect others to entertain us. Conversely, I noticed a common characteristic in many of my friends who did have TV’s (and watched them a lot).That is, they lacked initiative and a sense of adventure, they were creatures of comfort and risk averse, and they lacked the ability to make their own fun. Sorry… but fundamentally they were boring. I still remember the disappointment I would feel in my gut, when I’d rock up at a mate’s place on a Saturday morning, ready to go fishing or surfing or building cubbies in the bush… and all he’d want to do is watch cartoons or play Atari (I’m giving my age away here).

Another thing that I’m thankful to my parents for, is that we traveled a lot. We were not poor, but were not wealthy by any means. Many of my friends had bigger, better houses and cars and ‘stuff’, but my folks spent money on experiences, namely travel. The fact that they were school teachers meant that they got 12 weeks school holidays a year- when we did, and many school holidays were spent travelling. Travel grows a person, exposes them to realities that you won’t experience unless you ‘go there’. Exploration is actually normal for a human being.

The point I’m getting at is this: we are made for adventure, from the very beginning- early mankind, we were ‘wired’ for the hunt and everything that the ‘hunt’ consists of- the camaraderie, the risk, the physical exertion, the adrenaline, the challenge, the exploration… the fun. When this is removed from our lives, we stop living… we kind of exist, but stop living.

In the context of my profession- counselling, I regularly meet people who are not happy (derr). But so many times, people are not happy for one simple reason… ‘they aren’t getting their needs met’. If I went without food for a period of time I would get hungry and look for something to eat. This would be considered a fairly natural thing to do. Most people would do this because they realize they ‘need’ to eat. Similarly most of us wouldn’t think twice about breathing or sleeping. Most of realize that we need to breath and sleep. But as human beings we don’t just need to eat, breath and sleep to be whole and satisfied. We are relational beings, who have a deep need to connect. We are also recreational beings, who have a deep need to… wait for it… RECREATE!

Your need for recreation is HUGE!!! The need to blow off steam, burn energy, explore, get away, run, jump, swim, climb, fly, can’t be overstated. Many of us are miserable simply because we aren’t recreating enough. Be this because we are stuck in a rat race mentality, trying to bring home the bacon, comparing ourselves to other ‘successful’ people or because we are too lazy.

Don’t put it off. Get out there!

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” T.S. Eliot